This pace-changing interval session will take your marathon training—and fitness— to the next level.
Terry Shea is known as a marathon man. The 41-year-old holds a 2:20:48 personal best for the 26.2-mile distance and qualified for the U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon in 2004 and 2008. He’s had even more success as a coach, guiding dozens of post-collegiate runners to personal bests, Olympic Trials qualifying times and even a national title, as Esther Erb won the U.S. marathon championship with a 2:34:01 clocking at the 2014 Twin Cities Marathon.
A former Boston resident, Shea was a coach with his old club, the Boston Athletic Association, before relocating to Pennsylvania with his family a couple of years ago.
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One of his favorite workouts to assign once or twice during a marathon buildup is a continuous 10K that finishes with a fast final 400 meters. The main portion of the workout alternates six 1,000-meter intervals run at an athlete’s current half-marathon to 10K pace with a brisk 600m “recovery” between the 1,000-meter reps. After 6 miles of alternating 1,000m/600m, you finish with a fast last 400 meters to “open up a bit and end the workout on a quick note,” Shea says.
“The 1,000-meter intervals are done anywhere from current half marathon pace down to current 10K pace,” explains Shea. “I recommend starting closer to half-marathon pace and only speeding up closer to 10K pace once it is clear that the splits will not go ‘backward.’ In other words, do not start too fast only to find out that you’re in over your head and the intervals (including the moderate recovery pace) get slower by the end of the workout.”
The 600-meter “recovery” between the faster 1,000-meter reps is not a jog and should be done at a moderately brisk pace, or roughly 30-40 seconds per mile slower than goal marathon pace, Shea emphasizes. “What is important is that one stays on top of pace during this rest period,” Shea says. “Do not slow down too much thinking this is a jog recovery typical of other interval workouts.”
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This workout serves as a faster interval session during a marathon buildup but it can be modified for 10K or half marathon training by manipulating the paces, length of the intervals and overall volume of the workout to suit your needs.
Shea recommends doing this particular workout on a track since the assigned pacing is so specific, but if a 200m or 400m oval isn’t available to you, he says a flat, paved path marked every 200m is the next best option.
“If the athlete is coming off a pure base phase with minimal faster workouts behind them, then it is important this is not done too early because handling the brisk recovery pace requires relatively high fitness,” Shea says. “So anywhere within the time period 2 to 8 weeks out from a marathon could work.”